The BMW i3
BMW has sat down and burned the sustainably-produced midnight oil to create the most revolutionary mainstream electric car yet. And how revolutionary? Well, passengers sit in a carbon fiber ‘life cell’, all the electrical bits sit lower down, and the whole four-adult-seats-plus-decent-boot package sits within an overall length less than four meters long. That’s revolutionary.
Would you believe, it drives like a BMW. Sporty, sophisticated, pure – goodness, it’s even rear-wheel drive and so both beautifully balanced and blessed with corruption-free steering. The secret has been packing those batteries down low so, despite the i3 being quite tall and short, it’s not top-heavy and can maintain BMW’s preferred even weight distribution. The i3 is thus poised and pleasantly dynamic, proving wieldy in town but stable and planted at higher speeds too.The electric drive is wonderful. A powerful motor means the all-electric version can do 0-100mph in just 7 seconds, and the way it’s delivered in a strong and linear way makes it seem even more appealing than this vibrancy suggests. Then you lift off, and you slow down, with force: BMW has engineered in a lot of motor regeneration here, which takes some getting used to but turns the i3 into a ‘one pedal car’ when you do. A very modern, very satisfying way to power a car.
It feels genuinely premium and its very quiet in there. Overall, the i3 makes conventional cars suddenly feel a little bit like dinosaurs. It’s surprisingly spacious in there. Getting in the back is a bit of a faff but, once in, your city centre friends won’t feel too hard done by. Way better than a taxi.
Charging the i3’s 22kW battery fully takes between 60 minutes and 12 hours depending on the power source. A full battery will give you between 120 and 150 kilometers of range, depending on driving style and conditions.
Top Gear verdict: “BMW calls it ‘megacity’ car. We just call it mega. The i3 is genuinely that good. Join the queue…”.
The Car’tell verdict: Quick off the line, über-modern, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive and very controversial. We like it a lot.